Light in the Shadow: the Brown Piglet’s ART

dove:robin cross:drum“There are general feelings of hostility and hopelessness in prisons today and it is getting worse with overcrowding. . Being in prison is the final ride downhill unless one can resist the things around him and learn to function in a society which he no longer has any contact with. Arts programs for many of us may be the final salvation of our minds from prison insanity. It’s contact with the best of the human race. It is something that says that we, too, are still valuable.”

– a prison inmate

William James Prison Arts Project



Jody Armijo and Shiloh

The Brown Piglet also known as Jody Armijo, spent a total of 11 years in prison and jail when he was younger-7 years in prison and the rest-jail time.prison interior

He had been fighting and getting into trouble much of his life and when he was released from prison, he came out angrier and meaner than ever.JODY-close-past   He had been through anger management programs, NA, AA, every sort of ‘helping’ program that the prisons and halfway houses offered but nothing helped. He just got worse.shutterstock silouette barb wire Only when he got stabbed and nearly died, did he even begin to think about changing his life.

When I first met him, he was cutting wood jody:hobbit tree #1 ?

and working as a carpenter, living on the edge, just trying his best not to get in trouble again.willy:jody vigasHe never talked to me about prison then but he brought some art work he had done…very pale religious drawings that he had drawn on handkerchiefs. The Hispanic inmates often make these in prison-they are called Paños and are often very beautiful.

His drawings, mostly of crosses and the Virgin of Guadalupe were very pale……jo's handkerchief copy…he didn’t have many art supplies but he loved to draw…he was living on the minimum though and he spent far more time drinking than on his art.

I have a close friend, Jonathan Warm Day Coming, a highly acclaimed artist from from Taos Pueblo.Jonathan  Jonathan told me that during his 20s, he had often gotten into trouble–he was a heavy drinker and worked at odd jobs, just making enough money to buy more alcohol.

He had tried to get into detox programs but nothing had been available at the times he was able to go.  Then, one day he began to paint -his mother had been a well known artist so he had some background for art. He said “I just closed the door” and he painted and he quit drinking.


“A Night for Songs and Stories”   Jonathan Warm Day Coming

I wondered if this same principle could work for Jody. I started buying him more art supplies–more colored pens and pencils and he began to paint and draw more and more,JODY ROSE ELK

using more colors and detail…blue flower crossespsychedelic cross

He painted on wood and he continued to make the Paños /handkerchiefshandkerchief pen:ink:closer #6

dan sharon hanky

And he began to change as he painted and drew: he was happier, his anger came up less and less, he drank less, he was much more confident and he was able to express himself much better. He had once described himself as just a “gofer” but he had become an artist and a craftsman, building gates…not all those

jody's tree gateand working in stone also….

virgin:nicho 3:13

He began doing wood carving projectsTURTLE PLAQUE 1 copy

and painting cow skulls..he was going far beyond what he had thought were his limitations-he not only lacked confidence and belief in himself,  he had been kicked by a horse and his right hand had been badly mangled…he had thought that he would never be able to draw again..amazing cow skull

Some of his work was exhibited in a store in Taos, NM jody treasures 2and also at a benefit for our documentary film, THE LIGHT IN THE SHADOW….Taos News Article Prison Documentary_June 25 2015Of course caring, encouragement and love has had a whole lot to do with the changes he has been able to make. I have heard a theory that says “I am who you say I am” and a quote which says: “If there is love there is safety and if there is safety, there is a greater potential for change.”

And there is also the life changing significance of finding your unique gift and using it….jody:chuckle:prison film …which I wrote about in my previous post.

But there is doubt that ART and Creativity have magical  healing powers!3 lit crosses

Jody Armijo’s art will be available very soon in our store at POOH’S STORE

In the meantime, here is the preview for THE LIGHT IN THE SHADOW on the Prison Systembrown piglet


Prison interior photo credit: Michelle Line

For more information on ARTS in Prison Projects: The William James Prison Arts Project

Wisdom is to know that each of us has a unique gift….

jody draw rose gold cross

Wisdom is to know that each of us has a gift, a special gift, a unique gift.

That gift is to be used to serve life, to serve humanity.

One of the gifts the Beaver has is 2 sharp teeth

that he uses to create and build the dams and change the landscape.

If that Beaver chose not to use his gift and to lay on the shore

while the other beavers were working, his teeth would grow so long

that he would not be able to use them and he would die, physically die.

If we do not use our gift we will also die or we will become sick, mentally, emotionally or physically.

-Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene from THE SEVEN SACRED TEACHINGS

*In a way, I’ve already written about some of what’s included in the first part of this post but I really wanted to tie this in with the teaching of Wisdom, one of The Seven Sacred Teachings. These teachings seem more and more meaningful to me as the world grows darker.

I remember when I was in my 20s and early 30s, feeling that I had absolutely no talent, no purpose, no reason for being on this Earth. It was a sad and hopeless time and I spent a large part of the day and night.. drinking.

Eventually with the help of several therapists, most especially John Bradshaw and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I began to come out of this hopeless and depressing state and I began to feel I might have at least some purpose in this life.

ekr and us copy

Cindy Pickard, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD and Andy Pickard

I was always interested in art and I felt also, that I would like to work with dying patients, however since I hated hospitals, I couldn’t imagine how that could happen.

And I had a third interest..I wanted to be around the Native American people though there didn’t seem to be any in Texas where I lived. All I saw were plaques which gave the details about the Indian massacres that had taken place there.


My journey began when I signed up for some continuing ed photography classes at Rice University in Houston and then began doing portraits of children [they are easy to photograph because they don’t have huge egos].CHLOE BALLET

There was an upscale photography gallery in Houston at that time and for a while I imagined myself into the Art World, reading books about Georgia O’Keefe, going to gallery openings and buying a little art … but something was definitely missing.


After doing some workshops with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I started working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant at Hospice Austin in Austin, Tx and I began to feel I was getting closer to what could be my art

Working with my hospice patients, I was able to combine both art and photography. I often photographed these patients so that they would have photos to pass on to family and friends and I also photographed them for Hospice Austin publications.films of the dying:peter

 I used different art forms , encouraging them to  paint and draw and to write poems and stories for their families.ruth:hospice:paintingjames:hospice pt

I loved being with them..they brought perspective and meaning to my life…

Eventually I founded a non profit called RITES OF PASSAGE where I was able to freely express and bring together my ideas for working with terminally ill patients, combining home care with art, photography and with the help of my son, film.

Art continued to be a part of RITES OF PASSAGE as with the help of a few great volunteers, we offered an art class for patients and staff,File_01 joe:aids culminating in an exhibit of their work and my “Portraits of People with AIDS” photo/oral history exhibit

jim, gerri, jason

Family with AIDS

at The University of Texas-Austin.


And as yet another art form, I added the creation of memorials as part of the  presentations I was doing around the US and f memorial

Often after I showed one of our films on death and dying, I would pass out colored paper, pens, stickers, glitter etc and encourage everyone to make a memorial. kids:lourdes:memorials

They are so easy to make…


and they are beautiful…lynn memorial



The years passed and I went to a national conference on Death Education in Toronto.noel:flag

I had come especially to hear the keynote speaker, Chief Noel Starblanket who, earlier in his life, had been the youngest chief ever, of all Canadian Indians. After Noel Starblanket’s talk, which was on the Loss and Grief suffered by The First Nations People, I asked him if I could come to Saskatchewan to interview him for a project I was working on.

My three primary interests which had never left me but had seemed unattainable, came together then as I began working with the First Nations People in Canada.

In 2004, I met Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene in Winnipeg, Manitoba.Dave_Looking_at_Arkdave & me-petroform site copyMy son and I [IMAGICA PICTURES and RITES OF PASSAGE] made 2 films with Dave Courchene: THE 8TH FIRE and Manitou Api and Dave introduced me to the Seven Sacred Teachings which he had received and was talking about whenever and wherever he could.

These 7 laws were symbolized and represented by animals, which reflected our connection to nature and our connection to the land. The spirituality of our people is deeply rooted and connected to the land. You cannot live on this land honoring all that there is on the land unless you understand these 7 laws. If we do not understand these 7 laws that we are inspired to live by, then there is a good chance that we will not respect the land and that we will disconnect ourselves from what comes from the land. But if we live by these 7 laws, that is when we will have a truly happy and peaceful life, in harmony with all of nature and each other as the human family.

-Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene

glastonbury ceremony

Filming  MANITOU API  Glastonbury, UK

 I have written previous posts about the teaching of the WOLF-HUMILITY and the teaching of BIGFOOT-HONESTY.

The BEAVER represents WISDOMbeaver_flag

Wisdom is to know that each of us has a gift, a special gift, a unique gift.

That gift is to be used to serve life, to serve humanity.

I have observed so many times that when a person discovers his or her special gift, Life changes dramatically for the better.This has been true for me personally and though I haven’t made much money, I never feel bored and have an endless supply of things I would like to create.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross often spoke these words at the end of her lectures and I have always lived by them:
“It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.””

I have also observed that people who have not discovered their special gift or purpose, are unhappy, often turning to drugs or alcohol or worse… and they create more unhappiness for others.

The film clip below is from our documentary, MANITOU API~Where the Sun Rises which explains the importance and the meaning of each of the Seven Sacred Teachings.

On Thanksgiving: Words From the FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE

We have come to a time and place of great urgency. The fate of future generations rests in our hands. We must understand the two ways we are free to follow as we choose — the positive way, or the negative way; the spiritual way, or the material way.the-sun's-last-breathIt’s our own choice — each of ours and all of ours.starblanket kids and mom You yourself are the one who must decide. You alone — and only you — can make this crucial choice. Whatever you decide is what you’ll be, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. You can’t escape the consequences of your own decision. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.little boy-camp-1You must decide. You can’t avoid it. Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.cute boy powwow2 (14 of 19) Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this World. starblanket girlBelieve that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. a-moment-for-allDid you think you were put here for something less?starblanket teenage girl colorIn a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no beginning and no ending!kids circle -dustin
Mitakuye Oyasin,
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the
Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe


* Paintings titled THE SUN’S LAST BREATH  and A MOMENT FOR ALL by Taos Pueblo Artist,Jonathan Warm Day Coming Visit his website at Jonathan Warm Day Coming

Photo Credits: Dustin Leader and Cindy Pickard


















Last night, I happened to read this poem from the Sufi poet, Hafiz, originally named  Shamseddin Mohammad, born in Persia around 1325 ad. It seems deeply true to me and I hope I can remember this message…

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love Me.”little boy-camp-1

Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise, someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.File_01 lee-hug

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon

What every other eye in this world
is dying to
Hear.File_01 alaina


Life is GOOD & what I learned from the Drug Bust

Can we begin now to focus on all that’s good and beautiful in this world rather than all the violence, hatred and insanity?sunset:rb:mich

If you watch or read the ‘news’, things are getting uglier and uglier and every day, there is a dramatic increase in violence and insanity. And if you watch [and believe] the news there seems to be hardly any reason to stay alive.

If I watch the news [just on Yahoo..I don’t have TV], I feel incredibly angry, angry not so much at the so called news itself, much of which is manufactured propaganda, but angry at those who insist on putting it out there. Feeling angry at 7 o’clock in the morning not a good way to start the day and it doesn’t have to be that way… still life



There are thousands of people all over the world who are working for the GOOD…they just don’t make the news or very rarely.. .. why not?black dancers-kidscirclecute chines kidstaiko drummers


Many  Native American/First Nations People are now sharing their wisdom and understanding even though they were very nearly annihilated by the same type of people now ‘in power’Dave-Don-igniting

dave_speaking             Elder Dave Courchene, Founder of the Turtle Lodge

Our belief system has evolved over thousands of years, now to be shared with the rest of the world. In a most humble way, in a most loving way, in a most respectful way, in a most honest way, we have come to share these teachings with the world because in our hearts we believe that if we do not share this then we stand to lose all that has been created for us.

-Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene



Several years ago I went to a  shamanic workshop  in BrazilREGGAE BOY-WKSHP DANCERS BRAZILand during the course of the workshop, the group leaders GROUP-BRAZILtalked about how many of those in ‘power’ thrive on creating Fear: They talked about MONSTERS INC as an example of this and then we watched the movie, THEY was made years ago as a science fiction movie but it’s no longer fiction and we don’t need the sunglasses anymore to see the truth about people and we don’t need to participate in the manufactured fear…..they live


I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?

-Willie Nelson

A few months ago we had a so called ‘drug bust’ in our little mountain community and the Gestapo came-they came heavily armed- with military vehicles, agents and police. Helicopters buzzed the normally quite and peaceful blue sky- 30 agents, at least 6 vehicles-humvees, police vehicles, trailers etc and 2 helicopters..All for a neighbor’s 70 marijuana plants…just plants, herbs that are known to heal a lot of people, not a business.. and why, for what did they come? Certainly not to make the world safe from drugs. And they came without a warrant.

The low flying helicopters terrified my animals and me.  At first I thought there had been a bad accident, then maybe some dangerous person had escaped, then maybe the beginning of another war as war seems to be on everyone’s mind these days.

When I learned the truth the next day, I was furious! And I still feel furious whenever I think about it. Who pays for all these people and helicopters? It has to cost thousand and thousands of dollars.

I ordered some movies about the Holocaust because I remembered familiar scenes: Soldiers arriving, creating fear and terror and they too, came without a warrant.PIANIST

Since then I’ve seen a video of US Soldiers guarding the poppy fields in Afghanistan. For what and why?

Until the ‘drug bust’ I never cared one way or another about marijuana even though I grew up in the 60s but I was married to a doctor and back then, in that particular social group, there was mostly a lot of alcohol. I’m not against alcohol-I still drink wine but….


“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”―Carl Sagan

Alcohol is heavily advertised all the time-can’t get away from it.. even though it is known to bring out violence in many people and is the root cause of thousands of car accidents and deaths. Why is it so heavily and enthusiastically advertised?

“Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.”

-Bob Marley

I’m not going into a dissertation about marijuana but I have learned a few things since the ‘drug bust’.

I have learned that many people have used marijuana to treat and cure diseases including end stage cancer and stress disorders like PTSD and many more. I’ve learned that in places where marijuana is legal, the crime rate drops dramatically. And I have observed that some of those who have used it regularly, have created some of the world’s most appreciated and lasting music: Willy Nelson and Bob Marley to name a few.

So what to do now in this violent and crazy, insane time on Earth?  I think focus on the good, the beautiful things that still remain and listen to the wisdom of those teachers who have come before and those who are teaching now…And remember what Yoda said:








We also have several films/DVDS which are relevant to these times. See MANITOU API, THE 8TH FIRE, ON THE LAND, Elisabeth Kubler Ross -WE’RE ALMOST HOME NOW, TURNING TOWARD THE MORNING, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN etc



Until 6 years ago, when I moved to northeastern New Mexico, I lived my whole life as a member of the majority, privileged some might say. I am white, grew up in a fairly upper class family, went to private school

hockaday 4th grade


and college, was introduced to Houston society [twice..yikes!], was married to a doctor for several years etc., etc.


I had a lot of challenges and hard times on my life journey but still, I was always a part of the majority. I didn’t go to school with people from other races or cultures and in the places where I lived in Texas, people from other cultures, with a very few exceptions, were either nonexistent or they were the workers.

I remember feeling really irritated when I made a phone call and it was “press one for English, two for Spanish” Why did they have to have Spanish as a choice I thought. Can’t they just speak English!? [the viewpoint of some politicians which is born out of ignorance]

Spanish is the loving tongue
Soft as music, light as spring

-Bob Dylan from Spanish is the Loving Tongue

And then I moved to a very rural, relatively poor, Hispanic community in the mountains of northeastern New Mexico. I moved to this community because from the moment I first drove down the red dirt road, I knew I was home. There was a tiny adobe church and I thought it was los hueros

In those first few months I lived here, I often met with an Hispanic Elder from the area and he told me things that he felt I needed to know. He told me that everything that I had experienced in my life, had brought me to this place and he told me that these people spoke the language of the heart. He said if I couldn’t learn to speak that way, then I wouldn’t be able to stay. He told me that the people were holy because they were whole-they lived close to their land, close to Earth, asking little, giving much.ED'S GRANDPARENTS 1 copy

He told me that they represented the verse from the bible that says “The meek shall inherit the Earth”MACLOVIA-LOVE-JESUS

All of this was the absolute opposite from the way I had been brought up. To say the least, no one in that world had spoken the language of the heart except maybe one woman who had taken care of my brother and me when our mother was dying and a few of the maids who worked for my stepmother. I don’t think the people I was raised with would have known what “the language of the heart” meant and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to speak it.

As time moved on, I met more people from the community and surrounding communities. I love hearing Spanish spoken—it’s a beautiful language and the primary language of the community. Like many Native People, many of these Hispanic people had been forced to learn English as children and except for the very old ones, they all spoke English but preferred to speak their own language and keep the traditions of their culture.Victor_horseearly morning brand


Amazing I thought, that these people, who would be considered “primitive and uneducated” by many from the other world , were skilled in so many ways [ many are artists or craftsmen] and were able to speak two languages …The people in the world I had come from, were mainly skilled at making money and wearing the right clothes.George copy And  I had never been able to learn another language, failing German badly and never able to learn French or Spanish either.

I often drive over to Taos which is truly multi cultural, mainly made up of the Taos Pueblo people, the Hispanics and the Anglos.

At times the public is allowed to go to some of the ceremonies at Taos Pueblo-ceremonies that are ancient, mystical and beautiful.





For me, it’s beyond wonderful to go into restaurants and see these very different cultures represented, to be able to visit Taos Pueblo….



and to become friends with people from all three cultures.

Jonathan and book copy

Jonathan Warm Day Coming, Taos Pueblo Artist and Author

Ed copy

Ed Cardenas, Substance Abuse Counselor and Author

I don’t know many places where this is possible. I know also, that I  would never again be able to live in a place where there was only one race of people represented And I could never be interested in being a member of the majority. I think really and truly, I never was….interested.

So everywhere now, since the attacks in Paris, I hear the word ‘solidarity’ and I wonder what it really means to the people who are talking about it. Are they ready to participate in the bombing, does it mean they’re joining in with all the hatred or is it just a word which allows them to feel they’re doing the right and popular thing without really doing anything?

I know now what it means to me…a few months ago I saw solidarity in action:

Solidarity/The Community

A man and his three sons owned some property in the community though they weren’t living here full time. They had trampled on a lot of people and actually tried to destroy one person in particular. They had caused a whole lot of suffering and everyone wanted them to leave.

Then one morning, the sons went hunting and one of them didn’t return. He had a serious medical condition and needed medication. Several hours passed and still, he didn’t return. One by one everyone in the community who was able, began to look for the missing man. It was cold and the country is rough but they walked. Some walked all night.foggy bald mt

The next morning they were joined by more people, people on horseback, Search and Rescue, National guard helicopters. A huge number of people gathered and walked and rode horses and four wheelers and they made sacrifices in order to do so…jody red-snow ride copy

The man who had taken the brunt of the father and sons’ cruelty – they had wanted to destroy him and nearly been successful a few times-joined in. He had felt hatred  toward them and hadn’t wanted to help but he prayed for the lost one and then he walked.He walked probably 8 hours looking for someone who had threatened him,  pulled a gun on him and much worse.

When he came down from the mountain, the son had been found-scratched and disoriented but alive. His father with tears running down his face, apologized to this man he had hurt, hugging him and telling him how sorry he was and how thankful. He would do anything now that he could to help this man-his enemy.

Hate dissolved. Everyone could feel it dissolving and felt thankful. No one was resentful of the hours they had spent looking.

There’s so much more I could say about living in this way, in this community: about the respect that is given always, to the elders, about people who have always lived off the land and continue to do so, about people who generally lack the popular obsession with materialism.eli:jody

but instead, I’ll put up this song from Willy Nelson that I heard last night.

*All paintings including the painting of the church are by TAOS PUEBLO ARTIST, JONATHAN WARM DAY COMING. Please visit his website





-The Apocrypha 8:9

 In times of crisis, sometimes there is comfort in the words of those who have gone before…..

Several years ago, I did a photo/oral history on aging which I called THE GATHERING OF THE WISDOM PEOPLE. The  people I interviewed were in their late 80s or 90s and I tried to include elders from different cultures and walks of life. These people had lived through World Wars, the Great Depression and most of them had survived very hard times, both physically and emotionally …so they were not selfish or self centered.CALVIN:ME

They were funny, inspiring and wise and because they didn’t have much future, they seemed to take life less seriously and have a great sense of humor.. I found this to be true sometimes with terminally patients.

The Wisdom People website has not been updated in a while but you can check it out. In the meantime, I’ll  share some photos and quotes: their humor and then some of their wisdom… *their ages listed are the age they were at the time I interviewed them

                                                REGINALD HARLING

REGINALD HARLING, age 96*  Born: 1901 London, England  Occupation: Professor of Physics/Mathematics

“Why have I lived so long? Keeping out of bed as much as possible. Bed  is a very DANGEROUS place; more people die in bed than anywhere else.

And keeping away from doctors (most of my friends who died were involved with doctors in one way or another),”

Alvin copy

ALVIN IVY age 95*  Born: 1901  Vanderpool, Texas  Occupation: Cowboy/Rancher

  What was life like out here when you were little?

 “Pretty rough. You talk about country-this was country. There was no cars, no paved roads-all dirt roads-and if you went anywhere, you had to go by horseback or buggy.alvin9 The nearest doctor was Utopia and the first doctor I remember was afraid of the dark. He wouldn’t go anywhere at night by hisself. He also said it was no use to get in a hurry going to see a sick person. If they was going to die, they’d die anyway

                                                       ROSITA HOLLER

ROSITA HOLLER  age 99* Born: 1899  Piedras Negras, Mexico  Occupation: teacher

                                                    When did you retire?

                                                     “I never retired.”

File dr jim! marian

JAMES E. PITTMAN, M.D. age 92*  Born: 1904 Prairie Grove, Arkansas Occupation: Physician/Surgeon Former Chief of Staff and Head of the Department of Surgery Hermann Hospital, Houston, Texas

“The most I ever charged when I was in private practice was five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars and that’s a fact. You can’t even get in the hospital now for that. And that would be the care before, during and after surgery, see.”

                                                                                                                       MARY TREJO

MARY TREJO age 92* Born: 1905  Kendalia, Texas  Occupation: Homemaker

“If there’s a lot of love, then you always make things go.  Now these modern young people, they don’t go like that. That’s an old fashioned idea that we used to live.”

                                                         MARY CANADY

MARY CANADY, age 99* Born: 1898  Lockhart, Texas   Occupation: Cook for the Men’s Faculty Club The University of Texas at Austin

I’ve always helped people. I haven’t ever just sat down for myself. I’ve helped somebody – like last night. I couldn’t go to sleep until I went over to see one of the sick people on another hall. I go to see her every day. Go on and do something for somebody besides yourself. It’s bad to live just for yourself.”

Do you worry about dying?

“No, I don’t worry about dying. I just try to be good to people like I’d like them to be good to me. I love people. It doesn’t matter to me what color or who it is.”

                                                           ALVIN IVY


alvin8 copyYou’ve seen the world change a lot and not for the better?

“No, it’s getting worse every day.”

Tell me what you see.

“Greed – greed’s what’s wrong with our government today. You take those people up there in Washington-congressmen, senators and the president. They done forgot the Constitution. The Constitution said “a government by the people, for the people…equal rights to all and special privilege to none.” You think them people up there…? Something’s got to give one of these days. If we have another depression now, it’s going to be a lot worse than that other one. I lived through that other one. I know what it was. Once in a while you hear them talking about the cost of living’s gone down two-tenths of one percent, but it just don’t happen – up, up, up all the time. I don’t know how our government can figure they’re doing anything right.”


The following story made a huge impression on me. We always feel somehow that we’re safe and  that these things happen to other people, not to us. I’ve worked a lot with Native People and I have heard first hand what happened to them: torture, poisoning, rounded up and put on reservations, forbidden to speak their language or participate in their ceremonies- ….IT CAN HAPPEN – HERE AND EVERYWHERE…

Rose&w3 copy

ROSE HANAUER age 89* Born: 1908  Berlin, Germany Occupation: Dressmaker

I was born in Berlin,Germany, the youngest of three children. I had two older brothers.rose2 DONKEY

rose1 BABY

After graduating from High School I went into dressmaking, learning design, making patterns etc. My father was a pharmacist, he owned a pharmacy in the middle of Berlin. I married pretty young and my father died one year after my marriage.

By that time Hitler had already a lot of power in Germany, the political situation was very bad and the danger that the Communists would take over Germany was great. The Germans figured that Hitler would be the smaller of two evils, so they supported him strongly! Besides Hitler gave jobs to jobless people (of course all in preparation for a war that would conquer the whole world!)

When my father died my older brother, whom I loved dearly, was studying in Vienna, Austria to become a Chemist, but he had to come home to take care of the pharmacy. By that time there were already restrictions for Jews to work so we had to hire a non-Jewish Pharmacist and my brother worked in the pharmacy for a while until that became impossible too!

My husband was a pharmacist too. He worked for another pharmacy in Berlin, but the political situation was already pretty bad!

My husband and I decided to do anything to get out of Germany, but it was already too late to be able to get out, Hitler had taken over Germany and made it nearly impossible for Jews to work or get out alive.

My mother-in-law had taken a job as a maid in a private household in London, England. She figured she would be able to get her children out of Germany and she really did succeed. She became very friendly with her employers and they sponsored her and her daughter and us so that we got a permit to go to London.rose_eng

My brother, at that time-the year was 1938- still thought Hitler would not be in power very long, one should wait!

My husband and I left Germany as soon as we received our permit to get into England We left Germany Aug. 11, 1939 which was less than three weeks before England declared war against Germany! Of course we had to leave everything of value behind!rose7_mo

We would have loved to apply for my mother to get out of Germany too, but she did not want to leave as long as my brother and his wife and two small children were still in Germany.  The day before we left for England, my brother said to me, “I guess you were the smarter one, it looks pretty bad now”rose9fam

Two years after living in England I heard through the Red Cross that my mother was picked up by the Nazis sometime after my brother and his family were taken to Concentration Camps. My mother herself had written a few lines with the Red Cross letter. By the time I got this letter they must have been dead already.


The Gathering of the Wisdom People exhibit traveled to several places in Texas, to Maine and to Michigan. After that I donated it to The Austin Groups for the Elderly in Austin, Texas. It got lots of publicity and was featured on the front page of The Houston Chronicle.

Two of our award winning documentaries on aging are:


A rich and precious story of 3 older women and their journeys with loss, isolation and discovery. A moving video for professionals, women who are bereaved and anyone interested in understanding the importance of staying young at heart..This captivating video takes viewers into the lives of three inspirational women who have each found peace in growing older. Despite the limitations and challenges brought on by aging and the loss of a spouse, they have persevered and found contentment and joy in their later years.

“Driving to Utopia offers an engaging and thoughtful window in the lives of three widowed women who have said ‘yes’ to life. They draw from the wellsprings of lives filled with faith and joy, compassion and humor. As well as being stewards to the memories of their husbands, they are keepers of dreams yet to be fulfilled. This a valued addition to our library.”

J.Chandler Newton
Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator
Optima VNA Hospice
Manchester, NH

Award: Merit Award – Mature Media National Awards 1995 Buy Now Button



Bringing the Circle TogetherCIRCLE1

~ an uplifting and enlightening documentary on aging, wisdom and the circle of life ~

Award: Merit Award
Mature Media National Awards 1999

“an inter-generational video with a message for everyone about life and its seasons”

Wisdom, humor and life experience spanning almost a century – these are the legacies offered by four unforgettable men in their nineties, the stars of Bringing the Circle Together.

A retired surgeon, cowboy, road builder, and professor, they remind us that life is a circle in which we are all interconnected and in some way responsible for the care of each other.

Woven throughout are the comments of three young men in their twenties and the insights of Dannion Brinkley, near death survivor and author of the New York Times bestseller Saved By the Light.Buy Now Button

hobbiton-it’s the little things now

 Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

With the increasing terror, violence, ugliness and insanity in this world every day, I kind of feel like one of those people in the movie, Titanic, one of the ones who hadn’t been able to get a lifeboat and was holding on to floating boards, hoping just to survive

Not knowing what else to do, I’m trying to focus on the smallest things that bring happiness..

Early morning, with a fire in the wood stove and the light just beginning to come in…early morning living rooom

Phantom, the cat enjoying the morning sunphantom.morningGathering wood for Winter….jody wings:wood

The big things are collapsing: the banks, the economy, there are threats of another World War, extreme weather disasters…..and though the majority of people don’t want to believe it, there’s more and more talk about the grid going down. Ted Koppel talked about it in his interview on CBS a few weeks ago: When the Lights Go Out…it’s unimaginable, even to me and I live off the grid and around people who have lived off the land for centuries.early morning brand

Mule_team copyAbout a week ago, I sent out an email to quite a few friends and people I had worked with over the years. The email was a plea/request for help. I almost never ask for help- I don’t like to and I’m not good at it … but the money which funded our non profit for 26 years has disappeared almost over night and there is nothing left….nothing to keep things going, nothing to keep me going….absolutely nothing.

When I wrote the email,I hoped that perhaps some people*, remembering all of our contributions, would contribute something to RITES OF PASSAGE, or buy one of our DVDS, art pieces, posters, t-shirts etc. I was really hoping someone would tell me they knew how I felt-the  waves of panic, the fear of losing everything. Or at least, maybe offer to pass on the blog to others.  But except for a very few faithful friends, my son and daughter-in-law and one wonderful man who contributed $100, no one said anything.

*There were a few people who had contributed in the past and everyone on the list, we had contributed to in big or small ways, but what I’m really talking about now is caring…about when someone is falling, you help pick them up…that’s what Rites of Passage has done since 1988..

Our work has always been about helping the forgotten people-people with AIDS, dying people, old people, people in prison and how I wonder, after so much work, did I get to be one of them?

And I thought about something that happened several years ago


I was staying with some people one Thanksgiving. These people were all quite wealthy and the house we were staying in was warm and cozy with fires burning in the fire places and a huge Thanksgiving feast on the table. It was like a scene from A Christmas Carol.

One of the women was taking her very well bred dogs for a walk and asked if I wanted to go..I was a cold, very misty night. This woman walked ahead of me with a friend and they were talking about how compassionate they were and I was walking behind them. Suddenly a tiny Boston Terrier came out from behind a dumpster and  started to follow us.It was crippled and shaking badly in the cold and it kept following and I kept telling the women in front of me, that this little dog was following us.  But they never looked back or acknowledged me or the dog.I picked the little dog up and carried it the rest of the way..back to the house..the women never turned around, just walked into the warm and cozy house with the 2 big dogs.

I knew the little dog wouldn’t be allowed inside the house but outside, there was a screened in breezeway and I tried to make a shelter for the little dog.I found a box and some towels and I put the dog in the shelter then I opened the door to get something outside and the little dog ran out into the night and disappeared completely.

I actually came to feel that the dog was a spirit and that in a way represented that tale about the man who was waiting for a visit from GOD: the man cooked a huge feast for GOD and he waited…3 times someone came to his door–a beggar, a stray dog and an orphaned child..but the man was waiting for GOD and turned them all away…later very disappointed, he said to GOD, I waited for you but you never came…GOD said I did come, 3 times but you turned me away every time

So I don’t know…I am certainly used to challenges, my life experience from the time I was 7 years old, has been filled and made up of one challenge after another and I’ve learned from them and even though I was completely flattened,  I have always been able to pick myself up. But this time, I really don’t know.

I f you have suggestions [but please not advice-I listen to Eckhart Tolle every night and I know that crisis is meant to be an opportunity] you can email me at :

or Contribute Directly  to RITES OF PASSAGE
Buy Now Button

OR buy one of our DVDs

hobbiton wreath

“La paz esté con usted/Peace be with you”

PS There’s a beautiful song written by Bob Dylan ..related to all of this and to all of us. My favorite version is by the Pines

It’s called WHAT GOOD AM I

What good am I, if I’m like all the rest?

If I just turned away, when I see how you’re dressed
If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry
What good am I?

What good am I, if I know and don’t do?
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thundering sky
What good am I?

What good am I, while you softly weep?
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don’t try
What good am I?

What good am I, then to others and me?
If I’ve had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been

What good am I, if I say foolish things?
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die
What good am I?


Our great Creator chose the Sa-be (Bigfoot) to represent the spirit of honesty…

The Elders say the best way you could show honesty or honor the spirit of the Sa-be, is to speak from your heart and listen to your spirit that has given you the inspiration of the words you are to speak. When you are honest with yourself, you are true to the words that you speak.

~Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene

andy and bob film


Several years ago, my son and I were filming a documentary in Canada called Manitou Api~Where the Sun Rises.

It’s a powerful film, a Native American version of The Da Vinci Code in a way, but its primary message concerns The Seven Sacred Teachings of the Anishnabe People.manitou cover

MANITOU API is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, but with a decisive difference:  It is true. Ranging from Canada to Cambridge, this fascinating film deals with life-and-death issues — because if we do not attend to the wisdom herein, we shall likely have no future on Earth, our only home. -Larry Dossey, MD  New York Times Bestselling Author

Each of the Seven Teachings is represented by an animal: LOVE by the Eagle, RESPECT by the Buffalo etc.. *see The Seven Sacred Teachingsbuffalo_flag copyeagleflag copy 2

Honesty is represented by Bigfoot called Sa-bebigfoot river.

So I went on a quest to find a realistic Bigfoot costume—it isn’t easy…most of them look like gorillas –but eventually I found one in Hollywood.

I rented the very expensive and very realistic costume. The man from whom I rented it told me he would no longer ship to Canada -I would have to take it across the border myself . He had recently sent the costume to Ontario for a Disney movie and the Fish and Game people had captured it. They had kept it for 2 weeks and he had lost a lot of money.

He told me the Bigfoot had a beautiful face..the photos on his website didn’t do him justice….close-up sasquatch And whatever you do he said, DO NOT MARK ‘FUR’ on the box!

reading at naders


I had already planned to go to Michigan before going to Winnipeg so the costume was sent there… Nader’s Lakeshore Motel in Ludington, Michigan.

It came in a huge heavy box but I managed to get it into my room and all was well til 12AM when the box started beeping and woke me up. A bomb in the Bigfoot box I thought and I pulled the box outside as fast as I could.

It was still beeping the next morning and I went through everything in the box but found nothing..the cause of the beeping was never found.sasquatch feet

I had to get some bungee cords to more easily transport the box so I went to the Walmart in this small Lake Michigan town.  I  was walking through the store when a woman suddenly held up a video in front of me. Harry and the Hendersonsharry_hendersons “My favorite movie!” she said. I had never heard of the movie at that point.

I managed to get through Canadian Customs although the Customs agent looked at me very suspiciously. I had a note from Dave Courchene, the Anishnabe Elder I was working with.


The next challenge was finding someone to wear the costume. This person needed to be close to 7 feet tall, again not easy to find. We did find someone though..not seven feet but close. He was a bouncer at a ‘Gentleman’s Club’bob-bigfoot-color copy

The filming went are some of the stills:kids circle-sabekids circlehugging sasquatch-silly girl bigfoot kids hug


I came to think of this as one of many challenges, a test of faith that brought me greater insight and made me stronger, more prepared for the next adventure…..bigfoot 2

manitou cover
Buy Now Button